REVIEW: Star Trek Online Debuts on Console

Star Trek Online’s console debut on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One provides new gamers an exciting experience and existing STO players an opportunity to experiment with different factions and classes on a new platform.

Like many of you, I have been playing Star Trek Online on the PC for six years now, first participating in the beta and then purchasing a lifetime pass at launch. I quickly leveled up to the maximum one could go to at the time, and then paid little attention to the game as new factions and seasons were released over the years. At launch, STO was a game that was thin on story and heavy on meaningless missions designed for players to obtain the XP necessary to level up and obtain the next new ship they had been coveting.

To my surprise, Cryptic Studios has put a lot of work and care into the game since launch, releasing two expansions and 11 seasons worth of updates over six years that enrich and continue the post-TNG/DS9/VOY story into the 25th century. These expansions and seasons are included in the console release of STO, and starting from scratch made this feel like a completely different game than the one I played at launch.

For long time STO players, the selling point for jumping over to playing the game on a console is difficult. Unfortunately, you cannot bring any of your existing characters with you as the PC, PS4, and XB1 environments are completely separate from one another. This was disappointing to learn during my first interview with Cryptic Studios and Executive Producer Stephen Ricossa several months ago.

However, as someone who spends over eight hours a day at work in a cubicle, hunched over a computer, there is something refreshing about being able to sit down on the couch after a long day and play STO. My level 60 Starfleet Fleet Admiral is still there on my PC and available to revisit at any time, but my singular focus on leveling up that character and getting new ships saw me neglect the Klingon and Romulan factions, in addition to pursuing Starships other than cruisers.

The pitch for existing STO players is exactly that: use the console version of the game to explore factions that you have yet to play. Since launch, I have decided to create a tactically-focused Starfleet character on my PS4 who is now a level 24 Commander. My experience piloting the U.S.S. Defiant in a demo that Cryptic made available to players at Mission: New York motivated this decision. On my XB1, I have decided to try out the Klingon faction for the first time, although my progress has been slow when compared to my Starfleet character.



What impressed me the most when I began the game as a new Starfleet character was that this was not the same game I played in 2010. The tutorial was new and provides new players, especially those getting used to console controls, the ability to ease their way into the game. I was then thrust into the Klingon War story arc, which was radically different from many of the missions that existed at launch. I would venture to say that, back in 2010, the game lacked an abundance of narrative-driven missions that were fun to play, and advanced the story of the 25th century Star Trek universe. These missions saw my character navigating the new conflict between the Federation and Klingon Empire, as well as including familiar characters, settings, and enemies.

During the story arc, I discovered that the Klingons were attempting to create augments with the help of a descendant of Arik Soong, I had to travel to the 23rd century and work with Dr. McCoy and Scotty to stop a temporal incursion, I had to destroy a Doomsday Machine that the Klingon antagonist was planning to use against the Federation, and I found myself helping the crew of the Enterprise C, including Tasha Yar and Lieutenant Castillo, break out of a Tholian prison after their attempt to return to the past and battle the Romulans at Naranda III took a wrong turn.


STO is relentlessly faithful to the Star Trek canon that has come before it. As it is set in the 25th century, Cryptic’s developers have the license to develop the future of the Star Trek timeline. However, there are so many chances to go back in time and encounter characters from across canon. The console game is designed to guide you from one story arc to another that are appropriate for your character’s rank. In this way, you experience the game’s story in a linear fashion as the developers intended when they released season after season. I look forward to continuing to explore their version of the 25th century, and coming across throwbacks to previous events in Star Trek’s canon.


Naturally, it is a challenge for any developer to take a PC game and make it just as satisfying to play on a console. Taking a game that is played with a keyboard and mouse and scaling the controls down to a 16 (XB1) or 17 (PS4) button controller is a monumental task. I am happy to report that Cryptic absolutely nailed their design of a new control scheme for consoles. The control layout feels intuitive and simple, with additional functions such as selecting missions or accessing your inventory relegated to the options/start button.

Space and ground combat has been made easier to control with the introduction of an auto-fire mode. Simply select the target you would like your ship or character to attack, and the game will do so for you when your weapons are recharged. This allows you to focus on maneuvering and activating your personal and bridge officer abilities, as well as healing yourself or repairing your ship.

As PC players are aware, your subordinate officers come with a plethora of abilities that can turn the tide of a battle. These were previously loaded into a bar in the HUD and activated with the click of the mouse. For consoles, Cryptic has followed a number of popular games and folded this feature into a control wheel. There is a default ability that can be changed for tactical, engineering, and science, which can be activated with a single button push. To activate additional abilities in the heat of battle, holding down those buttons will display a wheel of abilities that you can activate by simply selecting the one you want.


To put it simply, this is one game where I would rather not return to a keyboard and mouse.



STO was in need of a graphical overhaul, especially since its engine was created over six years ago. The new graphics, especially textures and lighting, introduced for the console release (and coming soon to the PC version) do not give the best-looking console games a run for their money, but they do provide a much-needed upgrade. Ships look stunning, and the new lighting system make starship explosions look gorgeous. Planets, nebulae, and asteroids provide a lovely background as you are flying around and completing your missions. The new lighting really shines in ground combat, where particle weapons can be see reflecting off of the surfaces shots pass on their way to impacting their target.



The game is not without its bugs, however, as characters you are interacting with can be late showing up on screen, or you can actually see each element of them being drawn by the engine over the course of a second. In ground combat, the same drawing issues are evident when beaming down to a location, in addition to some texture problems which see the natural texture flicker with unusual colors. Clipping issues also arise frequently as the game will move to a cutscene where my character should appear in the captain’s chair, but he’s either standing on top of it or seemingly falling through the floor.

Further, a game as complex at STO does not provide every answer in its tutorial. Instead, there are non-player characters located at Earth Spacedock that explain how to do certain things in the game (that is, assuming you interact with them).

The Free-to-Play Model

Star Trek Online uses the “freemium” model to monetize the game, meaning that the game is free to download and play but can be augmented with in-game purchases. Thankfully, STO does not require you to invest heavily in in-game purchases to enjoy the best elements, whether they be ships, weapons, or consoles. Players gain new ships for free when they reach levels 10, 20, 30, and 40. Specialty ships are available for purchase through the game’s currency, known as Zen. $1 will get you 500 Zen in the game to spend on what you wish. Cryptic markets ship packs, uniform packs, bridge offers, and other bundles.

Zen is not the only way, however, to pick up these special items. Every mission you complete earns you unrefined dilithium with, when refined, can be traded for Zen. The game does not require you to invest a fortune to get the ship you covet, but you can get it earlier with a Zen purchase (assuming your character is of the appropriate rank to equip it.). Future seasons will also be available as free updates to the game, rather than as paid downloadable content that has seemingly become a hallmark of console games today.

Of course, you can also sometimes win item packs right here on! If you’re looking for some new gear for your PlayStation 4, you may want to check back here tomorrow…


As a free-to-play game, STO cannot be judged against the flashiest of games on consoles. The game shines in its story and gameplay. For new players who are curious about what happened after the events of TNG/DS9/VOY, this game is a must-have. Cryptic have gone to great lengths to craft the story of what happened leading into the 25th century. Fans will also delight at the appearance of familiar characters voiced by their actual actors.

For long-time players or those who have not played in years, it is a chance to visit different aspects of the game and play missions that may not have been created when you last played.

Ultimately, since the game is free, it is certainly worth a try. Fans just may find themselves having quite a bit of fun.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

star trek online is bitter-sweet. you can play all of the mission content in the game for free, and that is cool. but there is something very dark and sleazy too, and that is gambling. for a long time when they released a new ship, they would just put in in the game store for a set price. no problem, because that is how any store works. but lately they are putting all the cool ships in gambling packs. so you spend money for the chance to win, but most people get nothing. the most recent and most flagrant example is the TOS constitution. people have asked for an end game version of this ship since launch, and when it finally happened? no, you cant buy it for a set price. you have to gamble just to have a chance to get one, and most people lose. one guy did some testing with numbers on the games test center, and after opening 10,000 packs, he won 100 ships. so those are the odds they have stacked against their customers instead of just giving them a fixed price tag like any other business.

Preach it, Brother! 100!

That’s frustrating, and unfortunately the model many games with in-game purchases follow. Take the FIFA series for instance and Ultimate Team, which is one of the most-played game modes on a planet. You can pour tons of money into buying packs, but what are the chances of opening one and finding Messi or Ronaldo?

The fact is that artificial scarcity is what has kept STO actually free for those who don’t want to pay a cent. I don’t gamble myself, but I am thankful that other people do so PWE can keep Cryptic’s lights on. And imho, STO has the best group of developers it has ever had right now at this moment. It is obvious that they love Trek and care deeply about their work, as efforts towards eliminating long-standing issues for the console release have evidenced. For me, there has never been a better time to play STO and I look forward to it being around for years to come.

@Jon said: “I don’t gamble myself, but I am thankful that other people do so PWE can keep Cryptic’s lights on.”


Your entire premise is a fallacy. No one is suggesting they should be giving things away for free. By all means they should be selling these ships in the store and making money. The issue is the gambling aspect. If a business cannot “keep the lights on” by selling a product for a fixed price then they are a failure. Does anyone really doubt they would have still made tons of money selling the TOS connies for $30 a pop? No, they aren’t simply trying to “keep the lights on”; they are trying to bleed the most money out of the players as possible. “But a business is supposed to make money!”, right? A business should foster a good feeling with it’s customers where both parties feel happy with the transaction, not one where the customer gambles and gets nothing most of the time.

The fallacy is yours, as, just like playing an actual lottery, slots, poker, etc., it’s optional.

Furthermore, like with getting money, you can get your ship with hard work and EC and have better odds of success.

This differentiation from other forms of functionally identical gambling, along with this constant disregard for the exchange category “reward packs” (sometimes blatantly willfully, as some forum members have demonstrated), has become a recurring source of misinformation that irks me to no end. Why do you refuse to just buy it on the exchange? They’re almost always better than the c-store ships, and you’d be amazed at how few players will pay more than the 30 bucks for existing c-store ships, just for better stats than those existing c-store ships possess. The keys provide a psychological disconnect from the ships cost that, while perhaps not fully beyond moral questioning, serves as a necessary means to market ships that, given a fixed value, would fail to sell in volumes required to pay for their development.

Furthermore, in this day and age, the failure of so many to appreciate the existence of more cost-effective ways besides gambling really roots in ignorance of the masses, rather than malice from Cryptic. The odds of winning a gamble are something surprisingly many people never consider. You’d be shocked at how many people buy a lottery ticket each year entirely oblivious to the possibility that their $2.50 won’t get them $250,000.00.

For that matter, on PC, even after years of inflation, once the infinity lockbox released, it became cheaper to buy many lockbox ships by SELLING the keys for EC than to buy the c-store ships. With average prices, at last check, for keys, 3,000 zen (26 keys worth at 2×10-packs + 6 single keys) gets 143,000,000 EC. Many lock-box ships are less than this, now. Not by much, of course, but the point remains, and there’s no gambling to paying 120,000,000 EC for a ship.

Your unwillingness to participate in this system gives you no right to criticize those that do. Not unless you’re willing to criticize those who play state lotteries, which pay for our roads much the way lock-boxes pay for content updates. Even then, the issue of projecting opinions onto others is relevant in many of these discussions, including your post here.

By the way, you just called the entire casino industry a failure.

This is extremely dangerous, particularly for children.
It’s one thing paying 10p on a tombola to win a cuddly toy at the funfair, but to constantly run in-game betting ring with absolutely no regulation aimed at all players is a horrendous situation. Kids and adults can be highly susceptible to gambling.

Who’s regulating it? What is the minimum age to gamble? What are the odds of winning? What is the uppermost amount an individual can gamble in a 24 hour period? Over a week? 48 hours? Is there a self-exclusion policy? Is there somewhere online people who play the game can get advice on gambling problems? When kids get hooked will they be stealing money from their family to keep playing?

All evidence thus-far shows that this hasn’t been a problem….

I spent lots of money on the connie lockbox… didnt realise i could sell the keys and buy it on the exchange. It was sad, however, when I thought all hope was lost, on my last key, I got it. was i happy? yes. but i was fucking ripped off. Still, i got a lot of nice critdx3 phasers….

I spent lots of money on the connie lockbox… didnt realise i could sell the keys and buy it on the exchange. It was sad, however, when I thought all hope was lost, on my last key, I got it. was i happy? yes. but i was fucking ripped off. Still, i got a lot of nice critdx3 phasers….

I’ve put many hours in the game and have noticed that the very best way to get those ships is to purchase them from other people’s expenditures on lock boxes. I haven’t seen a lockbox ship yet that wasn’t available on the exchange. And, crafting items is a decent way to sell things to get energy credits.

Also, rolling more characters will get you up to more Klingon admiralty missions which will give you 30,000K dilithium per 10/10 completion.

And if you run ISA a lot, you can cash in on the 500 omega points for 5000 dilithium.

Those are a few ideas. There’s really lots of ways to play for free. I used to play Eve Online and WoW but I’d always cringe at the monthly fee. IMO STO is way better from a price/enjoy standpoint.

I really appreciate the STO price model because I can buy exactly what I want to buy for the reason I want to buy it–or simply not. It’s my choice 100%.

I LOVE the Console Interface!
Sure, it’s a bit different from PC and maybe needs some time to get used to but all in all I love it!

The only thing I absolutely disliked was that the Camera Distance resets all the time and that the Minimap is a fixed distance and by that more or less useless but meh, minor stuff :D

I have been playing for the last few days. I am accustomed to the PC layout. IT took some getting used to, but I am enjoying the game play. it had been a couple years since I picked up the game.

Thanks for the review. I played STO several years ago on the PC and enjoyed it for the most part, although I did find space combat just a bit tedious. It sounds like this issue has been helped considerably with the new auto-fire function. I don’t really enjoy PC gaming, I much prefer consoles. This definitely sounds like a good time to try the game again, and it’s also a great excuse to finally upgrade to a PS4 from my PS3!

I’m new to the franchise, but loving the heck out of this game on PS4. What I’m getting here is everything I didn’t get from No Man’s Sky, and I paid for that. Star Trek Online is giving me that for free.

I do wish they’d fix the crashing bug on the Empress Sela mission, but otherwise, I’ve had nothing but fun with the game, and just earned by Galaxy Class ship last night.

On ps4 it is very enjoyable, but Cryptic has alot of work to do fixing the bugs in this. The game crashing mission for Empress (diplomacy) is ridiculous…that should have been caught before release. And the camera has to be fixed, not only will it not stay on the angle you select, but in space combat its options are. …really,really,really,really,really far away or really,really,really,really far away or then really,really,really far away….i mean come on, people want beauty shots of their ships…they want to be able to see them in close proximity, not from across the grand canyon. If Cryptic can get on top of these and other issues , then they will have something indeed….hopefully they will.

Should have used latinum.

The game is pretty fun, as I have a few characters on the PC version with some top-tier ships. Only issue with the console version is everything hasn’t really translated over that well. A few controls are a bit more awkward if you’re used to the keyboard and mouse controls of a PC. Also there’s some story content missing as well as a few parts that are bugged. Not sure when they are going to add the other episodes though. Also there are some of the best ships missing from the C-Store as well as the latest expansion of “Agents of Yesterday” and the new ships and character customization options that come with it. It’s still a fun game and the new graphics are nice, but I still prefer the PC version just because the controls are much more accessible when you really get to tougher end game fights and PVP.

It is nice that the game is free, but if you really want to get anywhere you have to spend your hard earn money, I love Star Trek, but this game just SUCKS!

I am loving this game! It took me a couple days to understand what was going on, and the bridge officer training and such confuses me still, but it is very enjoyable.

just the shame the controls and targeting is abysmal, and it’ll only be a niche group who play it on console… it’s truly an awful experience – at some points you can’t even change the option settings.

never played a game on a console where you couldn’t change the settings where it gives you the option (it’s greyed out)

stay away from

As someone who use to play STO, I agree with many of the negative comments.

Fixed priced ships -versus- Lockbox Gambling. Between seasons five and eight, the game worked for both paying and non-paying players. I spent allot of money on fixed priced items. Once they hid everything behind lockboxes, buckets, and timegates, the game became very expensive and annoying. Unless you are either super rich or lucky, STO will just end up being a repetitious, tedious, and highly expensive experience.

Star Trek: Onlne does have some great qualities; however, the negative aspects of the game overshadow the good. I would definitely avoid playing Star Trek: Online. CBS will eventually come up with a better game.

I am on the PC version now, but will be converting to the XBOX One shortly. Great Post!